Within 24 hours after its July 2005 release, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” had sold 6.9 million copies in the United States alone – 287,564 books per hour – making it the fastest selling book in recent history.

If early buzz proves accurate, however, the whirlwind of Pottermania accompanying the July release of J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final installment, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” will catapult the series to new heights in the world of literary accomplishment.

But, contends author Steve Wohlberg, what many people don’t know is that when Harry Potter and his Firebolt whoosh off the shelf, he’s not alone. A victory for Harry Potter means a victory for Wicca, a religion that practices various forms of witchcraft.

And the acclaimed DVD program, “Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged, dramatically documents Potter references to evolution, reincarnation, sorcery, divination, spells, curses and other occult factors.

Wohlberg’s new book “Exposing Harry Potter and Witchcraft: The Menace Beneath the Magic,” asserts that “Harry Potter” purchases are often accompanied at the sales counter with materials on Wicca. Increasing numbers of young readers also frequent Wicca websites, cast “Love and Money Spells,” and practice “white magic.”

Why the “magical” upswing? One obvious source is right between the lines of Rowling’s pages, says Wohlberg.

“In the midst of fun and fantasy, J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ novels make witchcraft look ‘cool’ and exciting,” he told WND. “It doesn’t matter that these novels are only ‘fictitious stories.’ Stories are powerful.”

Riitta Leinonen, noted witchcraft expert and owner of “Hexeria” affirms that the books have pushed the once-occult practice into the entertainment sphere. “The Harry Potter phenomenon shows that there are also positive, and not only malicious, forces in sorcery and that innocent magic can be a good thing,” she said. “Witchcraft is benefiting from the Harry Potter effect.”

The Potter readership is comprised of a wide demographic, from children well under eight years old to adults, but Rowling’s use of juvenile themes specifically markets witchcraft to a young, impressionable audience, Wohlberg says.

Witch training centers have sprung up online modeled after the “Hogwarts” school, where children will “be like Harry Potter, go to Hogwarts, take classes, interact, get into trouble, and earn points.” Everything looks like a game, one training description reads, but “things start to get real.”

Wohlberg feels allowing children to read Potter just isn’t worth the risk. “There are much better things for our kids to read,” he said. “My wife and I have a three-year-old son who loves stories. Daily we read to him stories that teach lessons about honesty, purity, truth-telling, respect for parents, faith, and obedience to God. In ‘Harry Potter,’ young Harry lies a lot, break rules at school, curses, throws temper tantrums, and even drinks ‘firewhisky’ (he’s an underage drinker).”

“There’s a big difference,” said Wohlberg, between Harry Potter and other children’s fantasy fare. “J.K. Rowling has publicly admitted that at least 30 percent of her novels is based on real occultism. The ‘Harry Potter’ novels are a unique blend of fantasy and reality.”

“They refer to real places, real occultists (Aldabert Waffling and Nicholas Flamel), real practices (astrology, palmistry, fortune-telling, divination), and real occult philosophy. Based on my research, the extent of real occultism embedded into ‘children’s literature’ is unprecedented,” he continued.

But while children may be Potter’s targets, they’re not the only takers. One highly visible adult internet witchcraft school credits Rowling as a promoter of Wicca in a press release, stating, “Harry Potter has rekindled interest in beliefs that were already growing in the United Kingdom and United States for more than fifty years, and that belief is a faith called Wicca.”

This “rekindling” prompted Wohlberg to write his book warning young people, especially, and their parents to avoid “dabbling” in witchcraft, and, more specifically, as emblazoned on his website, to “avoid Harry Potter.”

But while he is quick to discount the value of Harry Potter, Wohlberg is equally quick to note that he is not “an unfeeling, judgmental, rabid anti-Wiccan lunatic.” “Exposing Harry Potter and Witchcraft” refers to Wiccans respectfully, he said, because he cherishes religious freedom for all.

“People have a right to read Harry Potter if they wish, or to be Wiccans if they choose,” he told WND. “I also have a right to express my concerns. Based on the explosive popularity of real witchcraft among young people, such a warning is urgently needed.”

After reading his book, Wohlberg hopes that readers will “respond with an open heart, take warning, and avoid both Harry Potter and real witchcraft in all of its forms.”

“Dabbling in the occult is dangerous… but I want my readers to begin (if they don’t already) to communicate with Wiccans respectfully, viewing them not as blood-drinking evil monsters (which they aren’t), but as real human beings who need additional enlightenment,” he said.

As WND reported earlier, the Vatican’s top exorcist has condemned the series as leading children to the devil.

Rev. Gabriele Amorth said: “You start off with Harry Potter, who comes across as a likeable wizard, but you end up with the devil. There is no doubt that the signature of the Prince of Darkness is clearly within these books.”

Filmmaker and occult expert Caryl Matrisciana tells WND about her documentary covering Harry Potter’s influence on children.

Her DVD, “Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged,” details numerous similarities between the spells and magic used by Harry Potter and those used in the witchcraft of the Wiccan religion. Such striking similarity, said Matrisciana, is evidence that the author, J.K. Rowling, has meticulously researched Wicca and included its tenets in her children’s books.

Some children who read the books, often more than once, may find themselves attracted to the magical world Harry lives in, she said. In attempting to create their own spells and charms, kids may turn to other books that teach witchcraft.

The “Witchcraft Repackaged” DVD explains how young readers today, more than any other time in history, have an abundance of occult resources easily available to them. It also shows how they can explain the series to family and friends.

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Related products:

Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged (DVD)

“Breaking the Da Vinci Code”

“The Evidence for Heaven”

Previous column:

A darker magic: ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’

Previous stories:

Top exorcist condemns ‘Harry Potter’

Boy wizard changing teens into witches?

Potter books: Wicked witchcraft?

Study: Potter readers more occultic

Potter called Christ-like

Jennifer Carden is an intern for WND

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